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Unnecessary induction increases risk of complications

A new University of Adelaide study suggests that women who have uncomplicated pregnancies should wait to have a natural labour.
Photo by Jose Torres.

A new University of Adelaide study suggests that women who have uncomplicated pregnancies should wait to have a natural labour.
Photo by Jose Torres.

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Thursday, 29 March 2012

A new University of Adelaide study has revealed that inducing labour in pregnant women when it's not medically necessary is more likely to result in complications at birth.

Elective induction is becoming more common around the world, with many women being induced for social and other non-medical reasons.

Dr Rosalie Grivell from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Institute and School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health has studied the data of more than 28,000 births from across South Australia, from 2006 to 2007. She compared cases in which women had undergone spontaneous onset of labour, induction of labour for recognised medical reasons, and induction of labour for "non-recognised" reasons.

Compared with women who entered labour spontaneously, induction for non-recognised reasons was associated with a 67% increased chance of requiring a caesarean section.

It also significantly increased the chance of the newborn infant requiring nursery care in a Special Care Baby Unit (an increased risk of 64%) or requiring treatment (an increased risk of 44%) compared with infants born following spontaneous onset of labour.

"Our research is aimed at better understanding the optimal timing and management of labour and birth for women with an uncomplicated pregnancy," Dr Grivell said.

"We hope our findings will increase awareness of the potential harmful effects that elective induction can have on both women and their infants. In the absence of serious maternal or fetal problems or a medical recommendation, induction of labour is best avoided."

Dr Grivell said the lowest risk of adverse complications both for mother and baby occurred with the spontaneous onset of labour between 38 and 39 weeks.

"While a natural birth is not always possible for women who already have complications in pregnancy, the results of this study suggest that for women whose pregnancy is uncomplicated, awaiting the spontaneous onset of labour is best," Dr Grivell said.

This study has been published in the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica.

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